Whose blog is it anyway?
Whether you have a blog on your professional website, or just a personal one that you maintain for yourself and a few interested readers, you should have a set of rules in place to handle negative comments and bad behavior. It’s your place: blog, journal or website, it’s your spot on the web, your home, your showcase.
Your place, your rules — which also means you also have to have rules, or else watch on the sidelines as anarchy takes over. Your blog is a place that invites comments and discussions — a comments policy helps prevent the nasties from defacing your work and ruining the conversations you want to happen.
Guests may comment — the purpose of a blog is to foster discussion after all — but people who post inflammatory, inane or vile stuff may as well have sprayed graffiti all over your walls.
This is where a comment policy comes in handy. Everyone comes in knowing the rules and those who don’t follow them can leave or be made to leave. Boors, trolls and asshats may be invited to tone it down or be forcibly booted out– this is the point where comment moderation and deletion comes in handy.
What is your SOP regarding comments on your website? Whatever rules you come up with, you have to make them clear,and visible.
- Author Barry Ritzholtz of The Big Picture has a long and thorough discussion in his comment policy page (worth a good read when you have the time), and writer Michael Hyatt’s shorter page explains his rights over poster comments. Every serious writer or site owner has one: even Playstation has a comment policy, and Blogherald (a blog about the blogosphere) explains what you can do with a comments policy and explains your rights as the blog owner.
Clear rules are important because you need strong protections to weed out the unwanted elements sure to wander in on your home space. And it’s not just the rude people you want gone, you also need to address the comments they leave behind: like nasty, spiteful ‘presents’ you’ll want to contain as soon as possible.
- With no clear rules, chaos reigns.
- You make the rules, you can’t expect people to follow them if you don’t enforce them.
- You don’t follow your own rules, you’ve just eaten into your own authority.
It’s that simple. Now, what are unacceptable behaviors you won’t tolerate on your blog? List them down and work on codifying them.
The link to your comment policy must be visible. Any time you invite the public in (and you’re on the internet, where everything’s public eventually) you have to have rules to protect your blog, your time and yourself.
The point of a blog is to connect and encourage comments and vigorous discussion, that’s how you get readers and followers.
The point of such a policy is to have a firm ground to stand on to kick out trolls, asshats and spammers while protecting the other readers and the discussion from such uncivil behavior. You have a right to enforce your rules in your domain.
Same as in in a moderated forum, where comments sometimes need pre-approval to show up, using the banhammer when the codes of conduct have been violated makes it clear what behavior is out of bounds: personal attacks, abusive or foul language, leading off-topic comments, back-linking, etc.
If they can’t say it to your face, people posting as “Anons” (anonymous) lose their credibility, something that happens when people don’t or won’t own what they do or say. In real-life interactions, the best scenario is to engage as adults and if they misbehave, call for cooler heads to intervene, and then call for a time out to defuse the tense situation.
On-line, though, the speed at which a discussion can go from zero-to-bugnut-crazy can best be described with, “Well, that escalated quickly.” If the behavior continues , moderators can ban the offending individual immediately.
Anonymity is a two-edged sword, and on the internet it has given riles to people who truly believe they can say what they want with impunity (“Free speech, free speech!”) Since they think they can’t get caught or won’t be censured, these people say things and attack others in ways they would never even consider doing in their real life (“It’s the internet, it’s not real life!”)
Rules help save time and energy. When you spend too much time on cleaning up after trolls, it’s like shadow-boxing – you’re engaging shadows, instead of going after their source. Clear rules head things off at the pass. Anybody who keeps pushing gets booted out. Ask yourself this when you think up certain theoretical scenarios in drawing up your policy:
- Is there any relevance in this particular comment in connection to your post?
- Does the comment contribute anything solid, constructive or of value to the discussion?
- By their comments, is the commenter a member of the audience you’re writing for? If it’s a spambot, kill it with fire.
- Constructive criticism stings, but it’s meant to give you pause and maybe reconsider your position in another light.
For bloggers, comments are feedback. A comment means someone read your work, yay! Comments mean someone read your work, reacted, and shared their view points — that’s how connections are forged, how readerships are grown. When you get negative comments, they sting. but detaching yourself objectively from the situation, ask yourself:
- Who is getting hurt? Your ego (as a writer)? The community (your audience)?
- What is your reaction – will you engage or not? if yes, how and why?
Having rules in place keeps the peace — that’s why they’re called policies, they police the conduct of the community, the root word is the same. They call for a code of conduct for participants to follow, outlining what is appropriate and inappropriate. Just because it’s “on the internet” doesn’t mean you can act they way you do when you’re all alone in your room parked in front of your computer. Social rules remember? You are expected to act civilly in public– the Internet doesn’t render this point moot — and you also have the right to expect civil behavior from people interested in what you wrote.
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